Keeping travel memories in a digital age

Tourist snapshots from sugar cane train near Lahaina, Maui circa 1973 (courtesy US National Archives at Flickr Commons)

Tourist snapshots from sugar cane train near Lahaina, Maui circa 1973 (courtesy US National Archives at Flickr Commons)

You can hold them in your hand. You can lay them out side by side and reorder them quickly. You can share one of them, some of them or all of them with anyone else in the room, instantly.

It’s the wonder of printed photos.

One of the few things my Mom requested for Christmas was a set of prints from each of two family trips we took this year; to the West Texas triangle of Balmorhea State Park, Fort Davis and Marfa, and an autumn drive up to East Texas and her hometown of Winnsboro.

It’s been awhile since I ran off prints from digital photos; they turn out better from a pro photography lab or sometimes even a photo processing kiosk at the drugstore, so I don’t make them at home but then never manage to get them done elsewhere.

I’d forgotten how nice it is to hold a stack of photos and flip through them without having to be plugged into a wall socket or on a battery to see them. It made me wonder if I’m not missing something by having so many of my travel memories resident in blog posts, hard drives and Flickr/Instagram accounts.

Is this simply because I’m older and can remember another way to share remembrances of a trip besides repeatedly swiping across the face of my phone until I find the right pic in the photo gallery?

Itinerant photographer, Ohio, 1938 (courtesy Library of Congress on Flickr Commons)

Making paper prints also showed me that it’s a little trickier to collate and organize your travel photos than it used to be when all photos came from your only option – a camera.

I had to dig around in my phone to excavate the right photos from the right folders, pull up Facebook profiles and Pages to find that shot “that I KNOW I took” of something, and a few gems were buried in my TwitPic, Instagram and Foodspotting accounts. This drill showed me that more and more, I default to my phone camera rather than my trusty point-and-shoot.

Travel ephemera are now scattered across multiple places, and if I want to be able to easily retrieve them later, I need to start taking notes or collate photos immediately after a trip before I forget what went where.

What about physical objects like ticket stubs (less common with electronic ticketing,) cards and brochures? My Dad keeps archival-quality boxes with memorabilia like paperwork from the hotel where he stayed with my Mom in Sasebo, Japan while on leave from the Vietnam War; that’s special to me because my last Navy ship was homeported in Sasebo decades later. I never did find the hotel but it was fun to look for it.

I have no plans to become a scrapbooker….I’d drive my perfectionist self completely mad trying to get everything exactly right, so I’d never finish one….but it may be time to plan a monthly run to the photo lab. A few of the best photos deserve to be made into prints; they can go in nice boxes with other travel memories that can be picked up and held in my hands.

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